Video: Healing from a Collective Trauma

Speaker: Marcellina Melvin

Hello. I'm Marcy Melvin. I'm Senior Director of Health Equity Strategy with Meadows Mental Health Policy Institute. And I'm honored to be here delivering this keynote for you today titled Healing from a Collective Trauma. Before we jump in, let me tell you a little bit about Meadows Mental Health Policy Institute. It's a nonprofit organization created out of the world of philanthropy. The Meadows Foundation of Dallas wanted to focus their contributions on something significant and make a real impact in Texas. So they funded a mental health policy institute that would work to provide a trusted policy that could help to improve local systems. Now, today we're going to kind of do a 2020 year in review, then we're going to go through some definitions so that we all develop an understanding of trauma. We're going to talk about the power and importance of healing within our community so that we can heal together and then the role of self-care in this whole conversation. So wow, 2020, right? What a year. It has been a rough year, okay? So between the coronavirus affecting our health and livelihoods, devastating wildfires that swept through the state of California, local businesses having to shut down because of the economic downturn, the social unrest and increased awareness in inequities across our country, and a widening divisions with our society.

It's kind of like a hot mess and a dumpster fire all in the back of a train wreck. You know, when my son came in and he saw this slide, he says mom, I didn't know you knew how to make memes. And I'm like, I don't. And he's like, no, that's definitely a meme. So there you go. 2020, we're living within a meme. One of the things that I want to share is like at the very beginning of the pandemic one of the messages that I tried to continuously tell people is that this is not a sprint. This is a marathon. And in order that we could really begin to level and set our expectations, kind of really low, because even at the beginning we knew it was going to be a long haul. We're nine months in and it's kind of like, all right, so maybe this isn't a marathon, maybe it's an ultramarathon, because we continue to be in the midst of it. And it's like we're in the midst of a marathon running uphill which is exhausting so everything that we're enduring is taking a tremendous amount of toll on each and every one of us. So for if you're anything like me, you may have one of those mornings where you wake up and you're just thinking I don't want to get out of bed today.

I am exhausted. And then you think, but today is no different. Yesterday was no different than the day before, and what I have on my plate today is no different than what was on my plate maybe last week or last month, so why, you know, why does today it feels so hard or so heavy? Because we're in the middle of a hot mess in a dumpster fire on a train wreck and some days we can manage all of that a lot easier than others.

2020 and everything that's happened has significantly impacted all of our mental health. The CDC back in June began tracking mental health needs weekly. And so one of the things that they noticed is an increase, a significant increase in anxiety disorders which have increased three-fold, depression which increased four-fold. We have more individuals who increased their use of substances, and about twice as many people now are reporting that they seriously considered suicide within the previous 30 days, so not only are we in the midst of a health crisis, but we also have a mental health crisis that we're trying to battle with as well. So like let's understand kind of the role of trauma and the role that trauma plays in all of this, right? So definition of trauma, it results from a specific event or a series of events that an individual person experiences and that experience is either physically and/or emotionally harming or harmful or threatening, and it results in lasting effects on that person's ability to function. So it's like high levels of stress and anxiety, right? -- more so than a person can mentally or emotionally manage, which can have lasting impacts upon that individual. And so this is our understanding of trauma. I want to explain collective trauma, and I want to talk about what does that mean?

Collective trauma is a traumatic event that affects a large group of people, and it can be things like a plane crash, a natural disaster, mass shootings, or a pandemic. You know, we've had several well-known collective traumas in our history as a nation. American slavery being one, the holocaust, the bombing of Hiroshima, the attack on Pearl Harbor, the September 11th terrorist attacks. You know, all of those are experiences of collective trauma, and right now it's like we're all experiencing this ongoing collective trauma through COVID-19. You know, when we're thinking about these traumatic experiences that have happened in the past and that are currently happening with us right now, they have the ability to cause a massive shift in the way that people within the culture behave, feel, work, and raise their children. Again, this is something that we are seeing and experiencing right now. So as you're listening to this, if you had the thought that this is hard, or why does this feel so hard, because it is. The last definition I want to go over is racial trauma, and for those of you watching that are unfamiliar with the term racial trauma or race-based traumatic stress, it's the cumulative effects of racism on an individual's mental and physical health. So it's similar to post traumatic stress disorder and racial trauma is unique in that it involves an ongoing individual and collective injuries due to the exposure and re-exposure to race-based stress. It's been linked to feelings of anxiety, depression, suicidal ideations and thoughts, as well as other physical health issues. And it's important to note that within this last month, the American Medical Association now recognizes racism as a public health threat.

So when we're talking about trauma, trauma can affect how we function in a lot of different ways, we're talking short-term effects as well as long term effects. Our ability to cope with stressful events, our relationships with other people, who we are and how we function in this world, trauma affects all of those things. When we're thinking about the impact of trauma I want us to understand that trauma is cumulative. What does that mean when I say it's cumulative? Because it isn't always just like a one-time thing, right? So one of the reasons we are seeing an increase in rates of anxiety and depression is because individuals that may have struggled with any type of mental health issues in the past, the stress of our current situation is amplifying those emotions, making it really hard to manage. I need us to understand that trauma affects our brain. It affects brain development when we're talking about children, adolescents, and young adults, and for those of us who have fully developed brains, it affects how our brains function, right? So if any time during this pandemic with the social unrest, the stress behind the current state of elections, right? If anyone has experienced feelings of not being able to focus or being tired but not knowing why you feel tired, well it makes complete sense, right? Because that is a direct impact of the pandemic that we're all enduring. Trauma increases the likelihoods that we will begin to engage in high-risk behaviors such as smoking, drinking, or overeating, and using those actions as a means of coping, right? So COVID-19, some of us think that that's the 19 pounds that we picked up while sheltering in place. And it -- we turned to lots of different things to try and help soothe us during these really stressful times, which is why, you know, we can easily link trauma and to mental health symptoms and why there's been that increase.

So specifically, let's kind of dig into COVID-19, and how it's impacted us personally. So, many of us may either have had family members, friends, or even ourselves who have gotten sick or possibly died as it relates to COVID. And one of the hard things about losing a loved one during times of COVID-19, is not being able to gather and grieve and pay that respect that we're used to in our kind of history. Many of us may have a funeral ritual -- funeral rituals that we've not been able to utilize even though we've lost loved ones as a result of the pandemic. Then there is a repeated exposure to hearing and seeing frightening and unnerving things on television, or in the news. You know, back in April and May in many of the conversations that I've had, I have said to individuals it is so important you have to limit how much you are watching the news or watching TV or reading those headlines, right? It's called doom scrolling, as you just continue to read and are inundated by all of that information and I think for a lot of us, you know, we were able to kind of limit kind of what is the exposure, what happened today, what's new, and to continue on. However, these last couple of weeks I think everyone was probably glued to storylines as a result of wanting to be in the know as it relates to the election. And even now I find myself turning on the news or doing that doom scrolling to figure out what's going on. That can be overwhelming and add additional stress to our lives. COVID disrupted all our routines, right?

So we have kids at home trying to do virtual learning in any form of capacity. We had people that are now, you know, working from home in a way that they weren't doing before. So that disruption also causes us -- it increases our stress levels. And then there may be stress related to either experiencing job or housing loss, right? Or it may be stress related to worried about family members and friends who may have experienced job or housing loss. Then there's the worry about our safety, right? How do we keep ourselves safe? How do we keep our loved ones safe? How do we continue to try and make sure that we're able to meet our basic needs in the midst of being really uncertain about what tomorrow may bring. Then the isolation, right? So in this time of the pandemic it is crucial for us to maintain kind of that safety distance but it's like how do you stay physically apart but still stay connected? And there's so many people with these increased rates of isolation and loneliness and being apart from family and friends. We are entering into this holiday season, or we're in the midst of the holiday season and we're not able to gather with our family members and friends like we typically would, and that's hard. That's hard. That's stressful. Many of us may find ourselves in the position to make really hard decisions for the people that we are responsible for caring for. And so how do you -- just the stress of trying to figure out what is the right decision when I don't think that there is a wrong decision, it's just really hard. So acknowledging that it's all of these things are occurring that's kind of magnifying the weight of just trying to get through this pandemic. So not to be a Debbie Downer, I just was trying to lay out for you kind of that mental health needs and how and why they exist. So now let's talk about what can we do about it or understand about the communities in which we live and work and how we can pull together. So I'm going to approach this from a mental wellness framework right? So and if we think about mental wellness, it's really essential to healthy communities and it really needs to be the core of how we function as individuals, as organizations and the basic framework of kind of this mental wellness, it needs to be anchored in a whole-person care approach.

And so like, what is whole-person care? It's the coordination of physical health, behavioral health, social health, right? So if we're thinking in terms of mental wellness, right? When you're thinking a whole person approach, it's the whole of your body. This is not a neck up issue where physical health is a neck down issue. This is a whole-person issue, and we can apply this entire framework as it applies to all of the systems in which we live and work. So what does this mean on campus? So a whole-person care approach would mean that we're creating an environment where people show up and they feel valued every day and all the time. When we're talking about creating an organization that strives for inclusiveness, connectedness, equity, and to ensure that everybody within that community has a sense of belonging to that community. Now that sounds great and it does come with challenges, right? Each and every one of us are complex and unique people. We have needs and our moods can differ every day. So not only do our needs and our moods differ from one another, but even internally, my needs and my moods can differ moment to moment, depending on what's going on within society, what's going on in the political realm, what's going on with me socially. Again, more challenges, our life and our identity is a story that's constantly being written and rewritten every day and the changing -- the changes within our environment and within our society and the our experiences it alters and it shapes how we view our community. It alters and changes the role that we see ourselves in within our community. And it's like, it's important that we recognize that our story drives our perception.

Our story drives our perception about what we exp -- about what I experience, as well as my perception of other people around me and so it's important for us to know, what is our story, or what is the story of someone else? Let me give you an example. A friend of mine told me a story of an interaction he had one morning. So this friend loves to workout. That's his form of self-care, right? And what I mean he loves to work out, he loves to be at the gym at 5 a.m. in the morning to workout. And so some of you may be like, oh yeah, that's great. That's not a big deal. Well, let me back it up. So how does he get to the gym? He runs to the gym. So that's his warm-up is running like four miles to the gym and so that he can there by 5 o'clock when it opens and then his cool-down is running home. I -- you know -- but he's -- he's a friend. He's a dear friend. So he was telling me this story about he's up early running to the gym. It's about 4:30, so daylight really hadn't broken yet, so it's dark outside. He has on a hoodie with his hood up so, you know, he is a tall, large, black man running in the dark with the purpose of going to the gym, right? But as he's running he notices out the corner of his eye that a car is following him. Right when he speeds up, the car speeds up. When he slows down, the car slows down. So as he's telling me this story, he's explaining like he knows that he's being followed and at some point he is going to have to stop and turn and face the driver of this car. So he begins to slow down. He comes to a stop and as he turns around and looks, he notices that it's a white car and then he notices a big star on the door and so it was actually a police officer who's following him and as soon as he like turns he lifts his gaze. He makes eye contact with the white police officer who's driving the car.

The car, police car pull up right next to him. The window rolls down, and the police officer begins to engage my friend in conversation. So the police officer asks my friend, did you know you were being followed? To which my friend says he hesitated. He hesitated because he was like, what is the right answer here? What does this person want to know? What does he want to hear, right? And it was during that hesitation, right? -- so it's like, you know, is he going to say no? Is he going to say yes? During that hesitation the officer says you're being followed and then points behind my friend. So my friend then turns, you know, at this point he just turned to the side to look at the officer. He then turns fully around, so like a full 180 in the direction that he was running, and in the distance, he could see that there was some animal back there. The police officer said to him, we have been receiving reports of a rabid fox, a rabies fox in this area that's been attacking, you know, you know, cats and dogs in the neighborhood, and when I was driving by, I saw you running but I saw that fox following you. And so I wanted to follow along to make sure you got to wherever you were going safely. At this time my friend says he turns and he sees that the fox ran off in the opposite direction, so the police officer said to him, you go on. I'm going to keep following him to make sure that he doesn't mess with anyone else. So I'm going to ask you, what is your story that you were saying to yourself as I was laying out that story to you? Because I know I had a story when my friend was initially telling me of all the ways that I thought that this was going to play out, right? But that's because that has been my perception. That has been my lived experience, as was his. So I'm going to say, what if based upon our own life experiences and our own our perception is incomplete or it's flawed, right? And so I think it's really important that as we think about who we are that we are aware of what is the lens that we are looking through? Because it's that lens that makes a determination on how we are interacting with one another. And once we can become aware of that lens, then we can do something differently, right?

We need to not underestimate the power of identity and the sense of community, and that impact on the way that we interact with one another. And so while that sounds great, it's important that we know that in times of uncertainty, like times we're in now, we seek sameness, right? We seek routine, not diversity. However, even though we're in uncertain times, it is critical that we begin to build a community in which we are connecting with one another and we're able to build a community in which all of us feel safe. In thinking about our identities, right? -- it's important to know that like, our identities really impacts the relationships that we create with one another. And it's also important to know that we aren't our jobs, so whether that's a student or a clinician or a professor, you know, we are so much more than that, right? I'm a sibling. I'm a parent. I'm a black female. I'm a colleague. I'm a friend. I'm a clinician. And I'm a promoter of equity, right? These are all things that I am, and I can tell you that at times, some of those identities are definitely competing with one another, right? They definitely add competing demands in my life. And then, you know, there's we need to consider that like what if our perception of our employer or our professor and our perception of their values don't align with our own personal values, right? That's going to create an internal tension in which we're going to need to be pulling out coping mechanisms and strategies in order that we can reduce some of that conflict, otherwise we're going to be left with kind of two options.

Creating and setting boundaries, or looking for another space and opportunity in order to work, go to school, or learn. Let's consider this. This ongoing pandemic raises the importance of how we collectively respond to health disparities, economic stressors and structural racism. You know, when this is over, we're going to be judged not for how we respond in the moment, but the culture and the structure that we build while we were responding. Our communities are watching, and we're watching one another which is why it's so important that we come together. I'm going to take this from a behavioral health professional standpoint, right? So as a as we're talking about facing a lot of these challenges, you know, let's think about what are some of those barriers and obstacles that's in the way of us facing these challenges, right? Behavioral health is particularly vulnerable, especially when it comes to implicit biases. Why? Because when you're thinking about diagnosis and treatment of various mental health conditions, it relies heavily upon the provider or the clinician who's delivering those services. That provider may have unconscious attitudes towards historically marginalized populations that can have a direct negative impact on the outcomes of individuals that are reaching out and seeking treatment. You know, we're talking about implicit biases and how these biases can influence a provider's ability to engage in a truly person-centered care. I mean, how can you engage with me in a personal -- in person-centered care if you don't acknowledge and understand my perception and my life as a black woman in this country? As we're talking about disparities in the mental health system, we know that compared to white people, black and Latinos are less likely to initiate mental health treatment. They're more likely to terminate treatment prematurely. And so one may think, oh well does this mean that like black and Latinos don't want to get better, even though, you know, they're prevalence rates of mental health issues are no different and in some cases slightly worse than that of their white counterparts? No.

It means we need to consider the fact that outpatient treatment centers are less likely to be located in predominantly black and brown neighborhoods. So, you know, these black and brown individuals are have not been really introduced to this whole mental health system. And then when you think about the system itself, right? -- historically the treatment models that are used were based from the perspective of white men during the time when people of color and women were thought to be less than, right? So these treatment models, they weren't designed initially to account for or accommodate the nuances of or the intersectionality of race, ethnicity, and culture and inequities that exist. Historically there's just a lack of diagnostic and treatment studies on mental health for people of color. And, you know, as a group, people of color are underserved, understudied, and oftentimes misdiagnosed. So one of my previous experiences was when I was actually delivering services on a college campus. So I was actually hired to reach out to the marginalized groups on campus and I want to -- every week we would have kind of treatment team, right? So treatment team is where you have all of your mental health professionals who gather and then they staff cases. And so we were doing this in hopes of really making sure that we were providing high quality care and services to the students on campus. But there were a couple of things I began noticing. There were a couple of white providers, well intentioned, until like the whole conversation between impact and intent. That's a whole other conversation. But very well-intentioned clinicians, you know, as they were presenting cases, particularly cases of black men on campus, it was interesting because large numbers of these students had diagnosis of like paranoia, right?

So either paranoid or as like a sub-diagnostic criteria or even paranoid schizophrenic was one young man's diagnosis. But as I began asking questions of these clinicians to try and understand, you know, what were they basing kind of these diagnoses of paranoia on, the stories were the same, right? So these young men are showing up, talking about feeling very stressed out, very overwhelmed. It was a very demanding college campus, so they were stressed out. They were overwhelmed and, you know, they reported, you know, not feeling like they could go into the university's book store without the security guard following them around or feeling like people were watching them at various points on campus, or feeling like they were being stopped and security was asking to check their IDs to make sure that they were on campus. And so as they were explaining this, and so, you know, my questions to the clinicians were so do you doubt that these instances or that these actions are occurring? And they did. The clinicians, you know, said well of course that's not happening, to which I had to respond, of course it is happening, right? And so from their perception, that was not their personal experience. That was nothing that they had seen. That was nothing that they had personally experienced, so it was so hard for them to wrap their head around, you know, these fellow students that are showing up for treatment that these could be very real experiences. And so what made sense to them -- it made more sense to them that these young men were paranoid as opposed to the fact that our security guards on campus at the time were racist. So it's really important that, you know, we recognize we only know what we know. There's a definite lack of diverse clinicians, so, you know, for those young men on campus, if they wanted to see a black male clinician, yeah, they weren't going to see a black male clinician because we didn't have one in the counseling center at all. And, you know, when you look at just the numbers according to the American Psychiatric Association, while we know that black people make up roughly 13% of the U.S. population, black people are 20% more likely to experience serious mental health issues. And when we look at who's providing services, only 4% of psychologists are black and only 2% of psychiatrists are black which is why it's really important that we all understand what is the perception, what is the lens at which we look and we are interacting with people in order that we aren't allowing our own internal biases to get in the way of connecting and helping others.

You know, we need to know that historically, the adversity which includes slavery, sharecropping, race-based exclusion from health, education, society, societal and economic resources, translates into socioeconomic disparities that are experienced by people of color in this country. Socioeconomic status is actually linked to mental health. People who are impoverished, homeless, at risk of higher rates of incarceration or negative contact with police or that may be suffering from substance abuse problems are at higher risk of having poor mental health. Also historically, we know that there's a lack of diagnostic and treatment studies on depression of people of color and so people of color eventually go underserved, understudied, and misdiagnosed. You know, simply put, what you can see and interpret is influenced by our experiences and our perception, okay? And so we have to understand, know, and label kind of the lens from which we look, right? We got to name it before we can tame it. So like, how do we move the needle? Like if we know all this, it is critical that we create safe spaces for dialogue, both publicly as well as internally. So we want to have internal dialogues where we're really questioning ourselves and questioning some of the thoughts or beliefs that we may have. We need to listen to learn from others' experience and understand new and varied perspectives, right? So listening with an intent to truly understand, not listening with the intent to correct someone.

We want to challenge ourselves by examining our own assumptions or beliefs. Part of that means we're going to challenge ourselves by saying that sometimes we're wrong. We may have a wrong or a faulty perception. And we are not going to be able to change that perception until we really begin to analyze and think about that personally and internally. We need to make sure that we are consistently demonstrating openness and respect for one another. And when we're talking to someone who has a different lived experience or who has a different set of beliefs, we don't need to engage in the conversation about debating them, right? We can't tell someone that their lived experience is incorrect. It's their lived experience. We need to seek to understand and know that multiple realities can and do exist and we have to create enough space in order that we can understand their reality and that our own personal truth not be threatened because we are attempting to understand their reality. That means that we have to be authentic. We have to be authentic. We have to be vulnerable. And we have to stay true to our mission. And we got to own what's ours to own, right? We have to own that we may be bringing something negative to the table and before we can change that, we have to own it and name it and then actively work to do something different. As we move this needle, I don't want you to be mistaken. This is not a destination, but instead this is an ongoing process in which we all need to kind of come together to move this needle on. And the needle needs to continue to move, knowing that there is no stopping point. So how do we do all of these things? Well that's where self-care's going to come in because we've got to start with ourselves, right? We need to be examining our own internal biases, really seeking to engage with other people, and remember the comment I made about not ourselves being threatened by that?

Well, let's take a look at the role of self-care. So by engaging in self-care, that's going to help us to not be threatened by beginning to understand someone else perspective. You know, it's important to note that before we can help other people, we have to take care of ourselves. We can't help someone else if we're not okay, right?

If my cup is empty, then I can't give you anything. We have to -- it's important that we stay connected. So yes, we may still be managing in a middle of a pandemic where we need to make sure that we are maintaining physical distance for safety, but we still need to make sure that we are staying in connection with one another. You know, I can't stress the importance of getting enough sleep, getting enough exercise, and making sure that we're eating and we're eating real foods and we're eating healthy things. I will talk a lot about the importance of creating a coping toolkit, right? And so we need to put together a list of activities, or a list of things that we can engage in that kind of feeds us or refuels us. I imagine self-care is kind of like your iPhone charger or your phone charger, right? At night before you go to bed, you wouldn't dare not think to plug up your phone. Why? Because it's going to run out. It'll run out of juice. You'll run out of battery, right? And so we have to keep our phones charged. Well, we need to think about ourselves as that phone and we need to make sure that like self-care is kind of like when you plug your phone in, engaging in your own self-care is like you recharging, refueling yourself.

Doing so can definitely help to increase our quality of life. You know, why is it important? Oh my goodness, it encourages us to maintain and have a healthy relationship with ourselves, right? -- so that we can then transmit that good feeling to other people. It's like I mentioned I before. We can't give to others when we don't have ourselves. And while some of us may misconstrue self-care as being selfish or, you know, not having time for that, it's like, we have to pay adequate attention to our own wellbeing, and we have to be able to identify what our needs are before we can begin to show up for someone else. Again, you know, prior to the pandemic, flying on airplanes was very common, right? So I'm going to remind you what the airline stewardess says at the beginning before the airplane leaves the ground. They want everyone to have a plan before it's needed. She talks about the oxygen masks that drops down from the ceiling, right? And what does she say, or they say? They say make sure you place the mask over your nose and mouth first before you try and help anyone else. And if you're traveling with small children, it's critical that you put your own mask on first. Why? Because if you don't have your own mask, then you're not going to be able to help someone else, put their mask on. So this whole concept of I don't have time for self-care, it's kind of then you don't have time to take care of anyone because if you're not taking care of yourself first, then there is no capacity to then show up for someone else.

Here's one of my favorite analogies when talking about self-care. It's kind of like we're managing stress, right? Everybody is stressed. Like if we were in person, I would ask people to raise your hand if you've experienced stress, and then people may or may not raise their hands, and then I would tell a joke about well if you've never experienced stress please give me your name and number. I want to know what meds you're on or what doctor you're seeing, because I need to see that person, right? And then you'd all laugh, but that's okay. We're going to do it this way. So we all experience stress on any given day. When we wake up, we wake up a little stressed out. That's just life, okay? and then as the day progresses, we encounter people. We may encounter work. We may encounter classes and that stress level rises. So that's kind of like here on the left side of this slide. But it's like what self-care does is it helps to empty that cup to leave you extra room for stress, so when you don't engage in some type of recharging of the battery, some type of self-care, you may wake up like Figure 3. So you may wake up already kind of overloaded, and then as you begin your day it won't take much to completely stress you out to the point that you're not able to function, right? So this is why we need to engage in self-care so that we don't end up like the right side of the screen. So here are a couple of tips. I mentioned before, we need to have a self-care plan. So self-care can be something as elaborate as taking a day off, or getting a massage, or going on vacation. It can be really elaborate.

Self-care can also be something as simple as stopping for five minutes, turning everything off, all devices off, and just breathing and focusing nothing but on your breath, right? So it can be a weeklong vacation, it also can be five minutes of doing nothing but sitting and breathing. But having a plan, making a list of all of the activities that you enjoy so that when you become stressed out, you have a list that you can go back to. Try to create a plan to take care of yourself. Once you're stressed out, doesn't work at all. It's going to be really important. You can integrate kind of like self-care techniques into ongoing things that we are doing, right? So like if you were a professor, you may want to start every class with, you know, one minute of mindful breathing. You set a timer [deep breath] and you do a minute of deep breaths, right? Or you may want to start with a five-minute check-in where everyone goes around the room and kind of grounds and orients themself in how they're doing. But you can integrate these activities in your day-to-day routine.

Once we're talking about addressing stress, you want to make sure that you have a plan or there is a plan in place to be ready to respond to staff or students who may choose to decide to share their own trauma history, right? So what's the employee assistant program? What are the health resources that can be given to students? What other, you know, resources exist? But making sure that, that information is out there and readily available. And being intentional about creating opportunities for reflection, debriefing after difficult situations or conversations, right? But being intentional about creating those opportunities. And then making sure that we are promoting self-care and that self-care is something that is celebrated and not shunned, right? So just like you'd get an employee of the month for working so hard, let's celebrate those individuals who set boundaries and take care of themselves, because we really want to encourage everyone to be able to lean in and take care of themselves. So before I wrap up, I want to give you like concrete self-care strategies that any and every one of us can utilize. It can be as simple as talking to another person for support. That could be a family member a friend. It could be a mental health provider, right? But just talking to someone can be extremely beneficial. Engaging in positive distracting behaviors, right? -- so some kind of hobby or sport or maybe it's reading. Making sure that you're getting plenty of sleep and we're eating healthy. You know, there're times when if we're stressed out, we may turn to carbs. Carbs and sugar are not necessarily our friends, right? So making sure that we're mindful about what we're eating. Trying to maintain some type of a normal schedule, right? And so for those of us that may be super busy, a normal schedule may be just grounding ourselves in specific meal times. Making sure that we engage in activities that we really enjoy, even if it's just for 5 to 10 minutes a day, or taking a break, right?

And that could be 10 minutes where you are walking outside. You are getting fresh air and oxygen and just taking 10 minutes to try and calm your mind and your body. Additional strategies, you know, oftentimes when we're feeling overwhelmed, it's because we were focused on so many things that we may not have control over, right? So when that happens, let's stop and let's focus on something practical that we could do in this moment to manage the situation to make it better. Sometimes it's all about if we are dealing with a situation and it's at a suck level of 10, what can we do to get that suck level down to a 7, right? It's still going to suck, but it's going to suck a little bit less. Engaging in relaxation methods, so whether that's deep breathing, calming self-talk, soothing music, a bubble bath, aromatherapy, any of those types of relaxation methods. Participating in a support group, so getting together with a group of other individuals that may have had shared experiences. Exercise, moving your body is huge, and, you know, you don't have to be my friend who runs three miles to the gym, workout and then runs three miles home, and that's his self-care. No. You could just do exercise in moderation. You can go outside for a 20-minute walk, but moving your body is a beautiful self-care strategy. Journaling, right? Free flowing thoughts and just writing things down. And then as always, seeking counseling, seeking professional help to kind of help you manage kind of increased stress and anxiety within your life. So as I'm wrapping up this conversation, I want to say thank you again for inviting me to kind of present this keynote address. I hope that you found it helpful and that there's some takeaways that you'll be able to utilize moving forward. And in closing, I'm just going to say be patient, be kind, and be helpful to one another. Thank you all.